I’ve always been a person with a major sweet tooth. Whenever someone asked me what my favorite food was I would always reply with my favorite dessert of the time (usually ice cream). However, I really wasn’t much of a cake guy. I thought chocolate cake was too dense and rich, and vanilla was too dry and bland. I was the kid at birthday parties who ate more than their share of pizza, and then didn’t eat any cake. Every year for my own birthday, my mom tried a new version of cake that she hoped I would like. One year it was vanilla buttercream, the next marble cake, the next devil’s food cake. Each year, to her dismay, I took a bite, smiled, told her it was pretty good, then took a second bite and said I was done. Then, when I was 10 I fell head over heels in love with a cake. It was just any cake though, it was ruby red velvet cake with luscious fluffy cream cheese frosting.
My mom was at her friend Patty’s house (who now owns a cupcake store in Chicago) and whenever she goes out I always ask my mom to bring me something home. On this particular day she brought me a slice of red velvet cake. Looking back, it comes as no surprise that the first cake I ever liked came from Patty’s house because all good things come from her house like my first video games or tickets to Cirque du Soleil. Even though I didn’t like cake, I liked trying new things and the cake’s red crumb contrasted by snow white frosting was hypnotizing so I had to have some. After that first bit I sighed and my body melted as I entered cake nirvana for the first time. It was moist and delicate and the frosting was fluffy and just a little bit tangy. I found my perfect cake and every year since then, my mom has made me red velvet cake for my birthday.
There is a lot of confusion people have when it comes to red velvet cake. Many people think it is just a chocolate cake that’s dyed red, which is far from the truth. Traditionally a southern cake, it has it’s own unique flavor. There’s some cocoa powder in it, but also vanilla. The unique flavor can’t really be described in any other way than yummy and unique. The tangy cream cheese frosting that is a must for the cake perfectly complements the moist and flavorful cake. While my mom is the one who makes me the cake for my birthday, I make red velvet cake and cupcakes as often as I can. I’ll find any excuse to whip up a batch of red velvet bliss.
- For Cake
- 2 ¼ cups (11 ¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- pinch salt
- 1cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (NOT DUTCH PROCESSED)
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce bottle) red food coloring
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ½ cups (10 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
- For Frosting
- 16 (2 sticks) tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 4 cups (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
- 16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch salt
1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and put a round of parchment on the bottom. ProTip: Use a slurry of 1:1 butter to flour to grease cake pans to ensure there is no sticking.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
3. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and eggs in large measuring cup. ProTip: Make sure your wet ingredients are all at room temperature to allow for better mixing and no clumps.
4. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until a smooth paste forms.
5. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary.
6. Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture.
7. Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir. ProTip: Once all the cocoa mixture has been incorporated mix as little as possible so you don’t end up a tough cake.
8. Scrape into prepared pans and bake about 25 minutes. ProTip: To check doneness insert a toothpick into the center and if it comes out clean then the cakes are ready, if there is mush or lots of crumbs then they need to continue cooking. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
9. For the frosting: With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
10. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.
11. When cakes are cooled, spread about 2 cups frosting on one cake layer. Top with second cake layer and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.
For Cupcakes: Follow instructions for making the cake above for making the cake and frosting. Cook in ½ cup cupcake tins lined with extra tall paper cupcake liners that have been filled with a 2 ounce scoop. Cook for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Pipe on frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Link to buy special liners: https://www.etsy.com/listing/179965695/200-chocolate-brown-greaseproof-taller?ref=shop_home_active_1)
For Sheetcake: Follow instructions for the cake and frosting above multiplying all ingredient proportions by 3/4. Cook in a 2 inch high 9 inch by 13 inch straight sided aluminum pan for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool then frost on the top and cut into squares.
Recipe derived from Cook’s Illustrated